2K in Virtual Football Return

NEW YORK Videogame maker 2K Sports is returning to the virtual football arena after being absent for several years with advertising for a new game that it hopes will satiate its fans desires while offering an alternative to competitor Electronic Arts.

In the world of football video games, there used to be two dominant titles: one by 2K Sports, a division of Take-Two Interactive, called 2K*, where the * stood for the last digit of the year such as 2K5, and one by Electronic Arts called Madden NFL. In 2004, EA acquired the exclusive rights to make games using the NFL license as well as current players’ likenesses. As a result, 2K Sports stopped making football games.

What followed was much gnashing of teeth on message boards by fans of 2K’s game. Flash-forward to today, and those same message boards are overflowing with anticipation for 2K Sports new game All-Pro Football 2K8. (Sample posting: “This game is gonna put Madden 08 to shame.”)

“The brief was how do we engage the audience that loves the 2K brand and loves football in general and let them know we’re back,” said Jason Zada, ecd, Omnicom Group’s EVB, San Francisco.

To that end, EVB made six roughly two-minute “episode” spots of well-known rappers rhyming about what the game has that its competitor doesn’t that will begin airing on July 4th. The first one, called “Rice Returns,” has Rakim, of famed duo Eric B. and Rakim, standing inside a stadium tunnel rhyming about using Jerry Rice, the retired wide receiver and Dancing With the Stars participant, as a character in the game.

2K got around EA’s exclusive deal by using a combination of more than 240 retired players from different eras and generic characters.

“Everyone in the industry takes the same old approach to creating videogame trailers. We wanted to do something that was about creating content and not heavy-handed marketing,” said Tim Rosa, director of brand and lifestyle marketing at 2K Sports in Novato, Calif.

The spots will run in their entirety on footballresurrected.com and in shorter versions on cable television. There is also a soundtrack featuring the rappers in the spots as well as wild postings, online, street and print campaigns. Spending was undisclosed.

“Every consumer touch point has the same consistent message, which is tied into the theme of football resurrected,” said Rosa.